Course Listings

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Course Descriptions, Fall, Spring, and Summer 2011

Fall 2011 Course Descriptions

Spring 2011 Course Descriptions

Summer 2011 Course Descriptions

 

— Fall 2011

AMST601 Introductory Theories and History in American Studies

0101       M 4-6:40pm        N. Struna

Not open to Graduate Advanced Special Students. Explores the formative literature, theories, research approaches, and history of American Studies.

AMST 601 is the initial course of a two-course sequence introducing graduate students to some of the literature — from the field, the discipline, and beyond — that has shaped and reshaped Americans’ Studies over time.  In this course, we focus on the theories and paradigms, or conceptual frameworks, evident in scholarly work through the mid-1990s.  By concentrating on the historiography of Americans’ Studies and on the theoretical directions and assumptions of scholars, this course should help you to understand the making of theories in American Studies and, of course, the making of American Studies before the turn of the century.  Reading and thinking about this “early” scholarship should also prepare you for the contemporary theories and literature that are the focus of AMST 603 (Current Approaches to American Studies).

 

AMST628A Seminar in American Studies: Fashion and Consumer Culture in the United States

0101 TuTh 12:30-1:45pm               J. Paoletti

 

AMST629D Seminar in American Studies: Race, Class, and Material Culture

0101       Tu 4-6:40pm       P. Williams-Forson

Visual and material culture has been defined from numerous perspectives most notably anthropology, archeology, art history, cultural theory, and history. Since the 1970s in particular, scholars in these and other disciplines have used material culture sources of evidence to explore the everyday lives of ordinary citizens who did not leave written records of their experiences. This proseminar combines several large interdisciplinary fields to introduce students to material culture studies and to consider how objects have been used to reinforce, propagate, and resist cultural hierarchies based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and national identity. We will consider these actions with a strong, but not exclusive, emphasis on consumption. Using a wide range of methodologies, fieldwork techniques, and theoretical approaches we will largely examine the material culture genres and subfields of cultural landscapes, food, decorative arts, public history, and photography.

 

AMST629I Seminar in American Studies: Materiality in Networked Society

0101       Th 4-6:40pm       J. Farman

In our digital age, many of the objects we interact with seem immaterial and intangible since “all existing media are translated into numerical data…[and all] graphics, moving images, sounds, shapes, spaces, and texts become computable, that is, simply sets of computer data” (Manovich, The Language of New Media). This course seeks to redeem the materiality of networked society by investigating the ways that our digital spaces and objects are always tied to embodied physicality and material infrastructures. We will study the histories of new media, the industrial designs behind our objects, analyze correlations between material spaces and virtual spaces, and even take a trip to one of the East Coast’s most important internet hubs in the DC area to see the physical infrastructure of the internet. We will also look at topics such as the move away from physical artifacts in industries like music and recording (the move to MP3s), the ideas of virtual labor around the world, and the pathways our digital devices take when we’re done with them.

 

AMST629L Seminar in American Studies: Queer Politics

0101       W 4-6:40pm        C. Hanhardt

This seminar explores queer politics from a historical, ethnographic, theoretical, and speculative perspective.  When does the concept of queer function as a shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other identities primarily defined by gender and/or sexual marginalization?  When does it stand as a response to the regulation of normativity more broadly?  When is it used to challenge any and all identity claims?  Central will be an investigation of the two key terms — queer and politics — and how each engage questions of the self and the social, belonging and exclusion, and the terms of transformation.

 

AMST698 Directed Readings in American Studies

Individual Instruction Course

 

AMST798 Non-Thesis Research

Individual Instruction Course

 

AMST799 Master’s Thesis Research

Individual Instruction Course

 

AMST857 Museum Research Seminar

0101       T 7-9:40pm          M. Sies

Prerequisite: AMST655.  Credit will be granted for only one of the following: AMST638D, AMST856, HIST810 or HIST819D. A research seminar focusing on the practice and presentation of cultural and historical scholarship in museums and historical sites.  Students will complete an original research project on the challenges and opportunities of public exhibition and interpretation of cultural and historical sites.  Also offered as HIST810.

 

AMST898 Pre-Candidacy Research

Individual Instruction Course

 

AMST899 Doctoral Dissertation Research


— SPRING 2011

Spring 2011 Graduate Course Descriptions (PDF)

AMST603 Current Approaches to American Studies
0101                  Tu 4-6:40pm                  M. Sies
For AMST majors only or permission of department. Permission of instructor required for non-A MST graduate students. Builds on AMST601 and explores contemporary literature, theory, and intellectual issues in American Studies.

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AMST628E The Strong Black Woman in American Culture and Mythology
0101                  M 4-6:40pm                  S. Parks
Strong Black Women in American Culture traces the images and roles of the Sacred Dark Feminine and the secular Strong Black Woman into and through American life and popular mythology.  The course moves between the larger cultural images and the lives of African American women through history to the present.  The figure is presented as a traditional, organic model of female power and emphasis will be placed upon the roles that the images and the women have played as agents of personal and national transformation including recent developments in environmentalism, new age spirituality, and neo-feminism.  Sheri Parks is the author ofFierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture.

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AMST628J Seminar in American Studies: Life History Research
0101                  Th 4-6:40pm                  J. Caughey
This is a seminar about methods and styles of life history research–about how to adapt ethnographic methods (including interviews and participant observation) to obtain, organize, and write a culturally oriented portrait of an individual life.  Special emphasis will be placed on developing a double or “dialogic” life history approach involving a systematic comparison between the subject’s cultural life and that of the researcher.  We will consider: 1) the nature of cultural traditions as meaning systems, or language-concept systems, through which individuals seek to make sense of their worlds, their lives; 2)  the ways in which individuals develop self conceptions and senses of identity, including conceptualizations involving race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability from their encounters with social and cultural systems; and 3) the ways in which the contemporary individual typically juggles and negotiates a variety of different cultural traditions, and hence a variety of different life perspectives and senses of self.  Course readings will include methodological readings on how to do interviews, observations, and autoethnography as well as examples of life history portraits in articles and books.  The major course assignment will be to conduct an interview-based cultural exploration of another individual’s life history and to write a paper based on this research.

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AMST629D Social and Ethnic Issues in Historic Preservation
0101                  W 7-9:40pm                  M. Sies
Also offered as AMST498X and HISP635.
Relatively few historic sites across North America do a good job of interpreting women’s experiences, never mind the histories and cultures of non-privileged and non-white racial groups, socially-marginalized groups like the poor, or GLBTQ people.  This seminar will focus on the issues, challenges, and some theoretical and practical techniques for documenting, recovering, and interpreting the everyday lives and cultures of people whose heritage often gets overlooked, distorted, erased, or made invisible.  New preservation practices implemented since the 1980s are shaping our understandings of heritage and of the built environment in important ways.  They provide powerful tools for local citizens and grassroots groups engaged in historical research and small-p planning, as well as preservationists, planners, designers, and policy makers.  The new critical preservation practices raise fundamental questions about what preservation and heritage encompasses, who gets to be a preservationist, the functions of grassroots preservation in a democracy, and how best to research, conserve, and interpret both tangible and intangible heritage of a much broader range of North Americans.  Students will explore these issues through weekly readings and the occasional viewing; we will also take some fieldtrips.

The class will also function as a “practice” course; students will be involved in community-engaged research.  We will form a partnership with members of the Lakeland Community Heritage Project (LCHP) to produce a semester long grassroots heritage research project focusing on the history of Lakeland, a historically African American community adjacent to the College Park campus.  The project, which will model best practices in community-grounded preservation, will focus on oral histories of present or former Lakeland citizens.  Students working in groups will conduct, transcribe, and interpret oral histories and contribute them to the building of a heritage and archival website for the Lakeland Community Heritage Project using Omeka software.

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AMST629G Seminar in American Studies: Queer Theory
0101                  W 7-9:40pm                  J. McCune
Queer theory is one of the most exciting, quickly developing fields of thought in contemporary cultural studies.  It has emerged from the meeting of feminist theory, sexuality studies, and activism.  This course will explore key contemporary authors and texts which are moving conversations about race, gender, sexuality, and class in new directions.  While this course is not an introduction to queer theory, nor an exercise in defining its meaning, it will still engage some of the earlier texts to better place newer works in their proper context.  Most importantly, this course will look closely at how queer theories can be, or have been, put to work in everyday politics and policy.

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AMST655 Introduction to Museum Scholarship
0101                  W 4-6:40pm                  E. Hughes
Restricted to graduate students in American Studies, Anthropology, Historic Preservation, or History (including HILS), or others by permission of department. Also offered as HIST 610. Credit will be granted for only one of the following: AMST 638C, AMST 655, HIST 610, or HIST 619C. Formerly AMST638C. Provides students a basic understanding of museums as cultural and intellectual institutions. Topics include the historical development of museums, museums as resources for scholarly study, and the museum exhibition as medium for presentation of scholarship. Meets in the Smithsonian Institution Library Conference room on the ground floor of the National Museum of Natural History near the 10th Street NW and Constitution Avenue entrance. The first class session will meet at the information desk.

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AMST698 Directed Readings in American Studies
Individual Instruction Course

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AMST798 Non-Thesis Research
Individual Instruction Course

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AMST799 Master’s Thesis Research
Individual Instruction Course

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AMST857 Museum Scholarship Practicum
0101                  TBA                  M. Sies
Prerequisite: AMST856 and Permission of Museum Scholarship Program. Credit will be granted for only one of the following: AMST857 or HIST811. Students devise and carry out a research program using the collections at the Smithsonian Institution or some other cooperating museum, working under joint supervision of a museum professional and a university faculty member. Also offered as HIST811.

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AMST898 Pre-Candidacy Research
Individual Instruction Course

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AMST899 Doctoral Dissertation Research
Individual Instruction Course

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— SUMMER 2011

AMST698 Directed Readings in American Studies
Individual Instruction Course

AMST798 Non-Thesis Research
Individual Instruction Course

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AMST799 Master’s Thesis Research
Individual Instruction Course

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AMST898 Pre-Candidacy Research
Individual Instruction Course

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AMST899 Doctoral Dissertation Research
Individual Instruction Course